All the Murmuring Bones, A. G. Slatter – Book Review

Hello Humans! Are we ready to talk…mermaids? I hope so because today I’m reviewing a new mer-based book on the block – A. G. Slatter’s All the Murmuring Bones. I read this back in early March and have some thoughts so let’s dive in (pun intended).

Goodreads Summary:

Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the Mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.

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My history with mermaid/merfolk books has been a wee bit fraught, to be perfectly honest. I feel like, as a child, Mermaids were creatures of whimsy and the only times they really delved into darker themes were things like the 2003 Peter Pan film. The last few years, however, I think that almost every time I have read a book featuring merfolk the themes have been far darker, usually (though not always) focussing on the control of women. Now I think there’s huge value to those books and clearly that theme resonates with people – and I can see the connection to the Hans Christian Anderson story and all of those threads intertwining. For me personally, I find this isn’t my favourite kind of story to read.

With that in mind, I’m going to acknowledge that I may be a bit more inclined to fall out of favour with All the Murmuring Bones than another reader might, and I highly suggest taking my viewpoint and exploring some other reviews.

Because there are some great elements to All the Murmuring Bones. I loved the atmosphere this book created, there’s a lot of isolation in this story and I thought that A.G. Slatter managed to capture the differences in isolation particularly the claustrophobia of that – and I liked the way that isolation kind of played back through the generations.

I also thought that there were some really great story moments, things that felt like they came out of fairytale or folklore, with characters outwitting dark forces and also things that felt more like features from horror. The references really felt like they were there and I appreciated that.

I also liked that, while this story is one about ‘it can really suck to be a woman’, the story – for the most part – didn’t pit women against one another, and when it did it tended to be a more nuanced situation. It was appreciated.

I think one of my biggest gripes with this story was that I felt like the first third of the book felt like it was saying ‘ooh there’s a secret coming up bet you want to keep reading to find out what it is, I’m going to keep from telling you until the point where you’re too far into the book to go back’. Now, this isn’t the only book to do this, but it felt very blatant to me in this case, I think because there were points where it didn’t make sense for people to not just say what was going on? I don’t like it when I can see through the curtain to the storytelling process (personally) and it just got my hackles up a little bit.

I think that, at another time, I might have enjoyed this book a little bit more. As it is I am a bit burned out on these kind of themes and storytelling ideas and I might just need to take a bit of a break. Though I do think there are a few issues with elements of this story, I think that someone who is more inclined to read this kind of story will have a better time than I did – and I have to say that the more incidental story moments have stayed with me after reading.

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.

All the Murmuring Bones is out now!

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